by Charmaine Gauci

World Heart Day

Cardiovascular diseases are the world’s largest killers, claiming 17.1 million lives a year. In Malta it is the top cause of mortality counting for 40% of all deaths. Risk factors for heart disease and stroke include raised blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, smoking, inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables, being overweight, obesity, stress and physical inactivity.

26th September 2010 was World Heart Day and the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Directorate’s focus was on prevention of heart disease and early identification of risk factors.

To protect a healthy heart the key messages should be communicated to your patients:

  1. Heart attacks and strokes are major – but preventable – killers worldwide.
  2. Over 80% of cardiovascular disease deaths take place in low- and middle-income countries and occur almost equally in men and women. Cardiovascular risk of women is particularly high after menopause.
  3. Tobacco use, an unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
  4. Cessation of tobacco use reduces the chance of a heart attack or stroke.
  5. Engaging in physical activity for at least 30 minutes every day of the week will help prevent heart attacks and strokes.
  6. Eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, and limiting your salt intake to less than one teaspoon a day, also helps to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
  7. High blood pressure has no symptoms, but can cause a sudden stroke or heart attack. Have your blood pressure checked regularly.
  8. Diabetes increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke. If you have diabetes control your blood pressure and blood sugar to minimize your risk.
  9. Being overweight increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. To maintain an ideal body weight, take regular physical activity and eat a healthy diet.
  10. Heart attacks and strokes can strike suddenly and can be fatal if assistance is not sought immediately.

Source: WHO factsheet

Breast Cancer awareness

Breast cancer is among the malignancies where good opportunities for both primary and secondary prevention exist. Primary prevention here refers to promotion of healthy lifestyles, especially with regards to a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats, whereas secondary prevention refers to early detection and treatment.  October is pink to remind people of the importance of raising awareness on breast cancer. The directorate is currently launching a campaign with the collaboration of NGOs on breast cancer awareness. Focus will be made on self-examination at all ages, and referral to health professionals.

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